Rents issue 'barrier to new blood'
Stephen Wyrill, vice chairman of the Tenant Farmers Association (TFA), warns that Government policy needs to be more reflective of the amount of farmers who rent their land when developing policy.
Shortening supplies, higher rental charges and administrative bureaucracy all make it harder to get a rental farm and to run it, with Mr Wyrill – who farms at Catterick in North Yorkshire – urging the new Government to give greater recognition to the work of renting farmers.
Tenant farmers account for around 30 per cent of all of the farmed area in England and Wales, something the vice-chairman called a "significant constituency of interest".
The TFA is asking that the intricacies of landlord-tenant relationships be taken more into account in the development of policy, and that the tax and subsidy systems be made more sympathetic to tenant farmer needs.
"Renting is a very important part of agriculture," he said.
"What we find with a lot of young people looking to become farmers is that tenanting is the way the get in.
"However the height of the ladder for doing this is increasing and it is getting more difficult.
"The key is to find out what you have got to work with. If you want to support family farms than we need to look at the tax structure."
He added that the TFA was concerned that policy was often written on the assumption that all farmers are owner-occupiers and that tenancy agreements should be drawn up to reflect changing market values regarding what is being farmed. For example an arable farmer who signed his tenancy based on wheat prices in 2008 would be earning far less from his crops in today's market but still be paying the same rent.
His colleague Rebecca Marshall, national adviser with the TFA, said she was optimistic about how the recent change in the political scene would affect the sector.
"We have spoken to (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary) Caroline Spelman. We hope that a change of Government will mean a change in policy and we hope this is an issue that will be seen favourably by the new coalition.
"The tenants are doing the work and so therefore should be getting the reward.
"There is no mass exodus, it is just that there is very high demand out there. That could be existing farmers looking towards expansion or new entrants coming in."
In other news, entrants to farming are to benefit from a new centre for research and development at Yorkshire's Bishop Burton College.
The Bishop Burton Centre for Agricultural Innovation was proudly unveiled at the show yesterday by principal Jeanette Dawson.
Based at the centre's Beverley campus it will draw together all strands of land-based research currently carried out by staff and students.
Mrs Dawson said: "We hope that by establishing a centre such as this, the results of valuable applied research can be used, built upon and promoted effectively to the betterment of agricultural and allied industries.
"As educators, we must take the lead in preparing farmers and land-based industry for climate change and the introduction of new technologies and legislation and make sure they are working in line with the Government strategy."